Random YouTube find:
Morton Gould: Venice
(Audiograph for Double Orchestra and Brass Choirs)
(For Divided symphony and String Quartet on Vivaldi Themes)
Seattle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Milton Katims, recorded 1968.
Liner notes sourced from eBay:
At one point I owned this LP, but it made no impression, for I was searching out Gould’s most modernist and meaty works, some of which I wrote up at the time of the unheralded Morton Gould centennial. Listening now, I find the music beautiful and unpretentious. Part of the idea is sonic opulence, and this record documents RCA casually footing the bill for what was a decidedly experimental and non-commercial project.
In Venice Gould is poly-stylistic to a fault; the result is a bit like a random assemblage, a familiar Gould problem, and surely one reason this composer is all but forgotten today. Still, his command of orchestration is undeniable, and certain moments seem absolutely perfect. “Grand Canal” is best, thirds all over the orchestra, a fantastical night journey, the double orchestra and brass in wonderful concord. In a blindfold test, I would recognize “Grand Canal” as Morton Gould.
Vivaldi Gallery doesn’t sit exactly in one place or another: it is hardly a literal transcription but the avant-gardisms are subtle. Is it Stravinskian? Not quite, it is too cheerful, straightforward and strangely undemanding, although this suite would absolutely fail at a classical pops concert. If everything Gould does to Vivaldi had have been done with a more obviously radical motivation, it would make the whole thing less equivocal. The last two movements, “Continuo e Recitativo” and “Alleluia,” are the most dissonant and perhaps also the most successful.
On the other hand, there’s nothing else like Vivaldi Gallery, at least as far as I know. It is something Gould himself understood, something that only Gould could do, and he sent it out into an unheeding world with a smile on his face. I’ll give it another go-around again sometime, especially if I have the chance to listen to that wonderful 1968 RCA heavy vinyl on a quality hi-fi system. The Seattle musicians play with heart and the sound reproduction is simply gorgeous, even on YouTube.